Bebo.com, the hot social-networking company, has raised $15 million in venture capital, as widely reported.
This San Francisco-based start-up is ten months old and has taken off strongly in the UK and Ireland. Earlier this year, Bebo told us it had overtaken MySpace in the UK, but the two are essentially still neck and neck there. Bebo is the No. 1 social site in Ireland, and the largest site there overall, excepting Google. It has only ten employees, and just hired three people to open a UK office. Now Bebo is taking cash from Benchmark Capital, which chief executive Michael Birch tells us is designed to help the company maintain dominance in UK/Ireland, but also to help expand elsewhere in Europe and the U.S.
One interesting note: Birch, who is a social networking veteran, having run Ringo.com, which was sold to Tickle (now part of Monster), and Birthday Alarm, is writing off Asia. Here’s what he told us yesterday: We feel that Asia is going to be dominated by two or three home-grown social networks. There is a very different cultural mix. To operate in those countries, the sites have to be incredibly different. There are language and cultural barriers, and in China it is difficult to do business at all. It is unrealistic to think that a ten-man team can overcome those hurdles, and still become dominant player in the UK and US markets.
Second interesting note: Bebo is showing strong growth, and it stems in part from having the same “limiting” features as Facebook, Birch says. Bebo wants to encourage its users to engage with their real-life community, so is shying away from a completely “open” model like MySpace, where people create Web pages independent of a community. While Bebo allows such open behavior, it is doing everything it can to encourage people to network with others they are really associated with, whether high schools friends or other. It is getting 100 million page views per day, up 30 percent in just two months. Take a look at why some girls in Wichita, Kansas are choosing Bebo over MySpace.